Their Bad Mother

ears.JPGI’m guessing that whoever put this sign together wasn’t thinking literally about ears, but still: at 7:45 in the morning the question ‘who has ears’, posed theologically, just gives one a bit of an existential headache.

(Who does have ears? Rabbits have ears, but they don’t, to the best of my knowledge, pray. Corn also has ears. Fish don’t have ears – do they? What about ears that don’t work? Are the deaf shut off from God? That can’t be right. Is noise pollution destroying our ability to pray? Are we unable to listen for God in situations where our hearing is impaired? Mightn’t some of those situations be exactly the ones in which we’d be most inclined to try to listen – say, during an earthquake or other very loud emergency? Are the ears really the gateway to the soul? What then are we to make of earmuffs, or ear plugs, or those iPod earbud earphones?)

(This is why I stopped doing philosophy. The mornings were hard.)

You’ve heard, no doubt, about that insane pastor in Florida who’s been wanting to burn the Qu’ran to protest the so-called “mosque at Ground Zero” project. You can’t not have heard about him, and what wants to do. He’s been all over the news. His insane and offensive plan – burn sacred texts, to make a point about hating the faith that is bound to those texts – has been all over the news.

His being all over the news is a problem, according to some people.
We shouldn’t be giving him any attention at all, say some. We should be
demanding that the media not pay any attention — or any more attention
— to Terry Jones and his insane posse of haters and book burners.
We’re just, some people say, egging him on.

There’s a point to this argument — it’s the same one that bloggers
and social media types construct about how to deal with online trolls.
People who wage public attacks on other people or communities usually
do so because they’re looking for attention; the obvious solution is to
withhold the attention. Terry Jones and his followers are just another
kind of troll, according to this argument: We should be denying them
the spotlight. Which, yes, holds a certain kind of logic. If they
weren’t getting attention, they might have given up long ago.

But they did get attention, and that’s the core of the problem that
we’re facing now. As sickening as it seems sometimes to keep hearing
about their story, and about how pretty much everyone in the so-called
Western world has called for them to stop being so freaking crazy and
please, please, please not do this thing, it is a story that we need to
keep our attention on. Because the defining part of that story is
that the vast majority of everyone, everywhere, thinks that what
they’ve been doing is crazy, really crazy, and wrong and horrible and
bad, and we need to keep that story out there. If everyone
who opposed what they’ve been doing stands down now, and goes silent,
the only voices left will be those that are still calling burn, burn, burn!

That’s not acceptable. It’s just not. If we let those be the voices
that define this kind of story in the media, then those who take the
actions of Terry Jones and his followers as representative of the West
will have all the more reason to cling to that belief. If we do not
counter those voices, and ensure that the narrative that gets heard is
the one that tracks our horror and dismay at what Jones and other
would-be Qu’ran burners are saying and doing, then we give them control
of the story. Like I said, that’s not acceptable.

Sometimes we really do have to fight trolls, and fight them hard,
and sometimes that fight involves a lot of shouting, and — yes — that
kind of struggle can look and feel ugly. But sometimes it’s necessary.
Right now, it’s necessary. Terry Jones is a troll, and we need to make
sure that the world knows that we know that.

(This post has been cross-posted with some revisions at

august blue mountain 009.JPG
(Seriously. Well, not totally seriously. Not actually fishing. Maybe frog catching. But not fishing. By fishing I mean, on vacation. Which is kinda weird, right? Why is fishing associated with holidays? Fishing involves worms. Ugh.)

For most of the last year, I’ve been working to help my nephew, Tanner. I’ve been telling his story for a few years now, but – as you probably already know if you read this blog, and/or my other blog – his condition has deteriorated dramatically over the past year, and he and his family are facing some unique and difficult challenges, and I’ve been working really hard to do something about that, to figure out a way to help, both for his sake and for the sake of other children facing similar circumstances who might need the same sort of help in the future. I don’t claim to be going about it gracefully – even wearing a tutu, I am the antithesis of graceful – but I am going about it passionately, or at least I’m trying to, because I want to make a difference, for him and, hopefully, for other children who need to have difference made on their behalf.

Anyway. This post is not about Tanner, exactly. It’s more about the spirit of Tanner, or the spirit of the tutus, however you want to look at it. It’s about making another kind of difference, in a slightly different kind of way, but a difference – a necessary difference – nonetheless. It’s about other children, children who are not like Tanner in the obvious ways, but who need help just as much as Tanner does. It’s about helping those children.

It’s about helping these children. Babies, who are at risk of getting sick – very, very sick; terminally sick – but whose risk of illness can be eliminated, entirely. Babies whose lives can be saved.

I’ll let Carla Bruni-Sarkozy explain it:

These lives can be saved, before they even need saving. Transmission of HIV from mother to child can be prevented, entirely. It’s been almost entirely eliminated in the so-called developed world – let’s eliminate it from the developing world. Because we can. Because we should.

Because those lives are just as precious as Tanner’s. I can’t save Tanner’s life – I can only do what I can to ease what’s left of it, and work toward a future in which other boys don’t have their lives shortened like his. But these lives – the lives of babies who are being born to mothers with HIV – these lives we can save now. Right now. I want to try.

I’d love it you would help me try. It just takes a few words – the words that are your name, signed to a petition, asking your government to support this effort. That’s all. So little, and yet so much.

Just signatures. We can do that, right?

(Oh, and? I am going to Africa – to Lesotho – to see this effort first hand, and to wrap my heart around it, and to write about it, of course. If you help, you could join me. Really. Just click that link. It will tell you that if you can rally your community to sign that petition, you might be able to go to Lesotho, too. To see this all first-hand.

You should totally do this. Trip to Africa or no trip Africa, it’s an important – life-saving – cause. Please help?)


Here are more detailed details about what you can do to help AND join me on the trip (from the Facebook page):

We put this in your hands. We’re going to pick the person whogathers the most support for the campaign. We’re going to pick thesupporter that recruits the most people via to our Causes petitionand raises the mostawareness for the campaign.

Do you want to go? Here is what you need to do:

  1. Click on and click invite your friends (or use this link: ) and invite as many of your friends to sign up as possible (be sure to publish the link on your profile too).
  2. Gather support elsewhere. Write to blogs you know, persuade anyonethat can reach a big audience to promote the campaign, host promotionalevents at your local club. Persuade employees to sign up. Reallyinnovative promotional ideas will go down well here.
  3. Send an e-mail to telling us who you are, how many people you have recruited and what you did to promote the campaign.


At 5:59am, EDT, Sept 3rd, competition entries close and we will contact the winner the following day.

(That ‘gather support elsewhere’ thing is important to consider – the contest won’t be determined on signatures alone, but also on how much you can do to get the message out there: blog it, vlog it, tweet it, start a meme, anything. The more people get involved, the further the message goes; the further the message goes, the more signatures; the more signatures, the more likely it is that this campaign will get the funding it needs and will be able to get down to the work of saving lives. So.)

Julie of The Mom Slant is doing it. Aimee of Greeblemonkey can’t go on the trip, but she’s helping out anyway. As people jump on board, I’ll compile a list of participants to follow here, and post them here and at Her Bad Mother.

You’ll join us, right?